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Acute Flaccid Myelitis in the time of COVID

Since the CDC began tracking Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) in 2014, the illness has peaked every two years, especially between August and November. This year, 2020, is a peak year. 

While AFM can affect anyone at any age, most cases are found in children 4 to 6 years old. About one in a million children will contract the rare, polio-like AFM this year, but that’s still about 75 kids too many in the United States. 

The most common symptom of AFM is a sudden weakness in an arm or leg and paralysis. Most children have an infection – a fever and/or a respiratory illness like a cold – about six days before experiencing weakness in the arm or leg. Your child may also experience:

• Headache
• Fever
• Back or neck pain
• Difficulty walking or standing
• Facial or neck droop or weakness
• Drooping eyelids
• Difficulty moving their eyes
• Slurred speech
• Trouble swallowing

If your child shows any of the symptoms, do not wait, even for a few hours. Call our office at 203-229-2000 immediately. The sooner your child is tested, diagnosed and treated, the better their chances of completely recovery. Delayed treatment can result in permanent paralysis or death because of respiratory failure. 

AFM is serious and life-threatening. 98% of AFM cases are hospitalized and about 54% of patients are admitted to intensive care units. 25% of patients need breathing machines, as muscle weakness can cause respiratory failure. 

While an exact cause has not yet been pinpointed, CDC research shows that AFM is associated with enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). There is no vaccine at this time and there is also no cure, so therapies and medications will vary depending upon each patient’s symptoms.  

COVID-19 now adds another layer of complications to the AFM peak. Because methods for preventing AFM are very similar to COVID prevention procedures, some experts are optimistic that the risk of AFM will decrease. Others are concerned that COVID-19 will discourage parents from getting immediate treatment, that the AFM outbreak will just be delayed or that COVID-19 will affect the identification and accurate diagnosis of AFM. 

Protecting your family from AFM means practicing stringent COVID-19 prevention recommendations:

• Make sure your children are up to date on all vaccinations
• Stay 6 feet or more away from anyone not in your household
• Wash hands frequently and thoroughly
• Everyone over the age of 2 should wear a mask when in public spaces
• Avoid people who are sick
• Disinfect bathrooms, kitchens and other shared spaces frequently

The CDC also recommends that every person who is medically able gets the flu vaccine this fall. 

Remember, timing is critical. If your child shows ANY symptoms of AFM, call our office at 203-229-2000 immediately. 

If you have questions about AFM, call our office at 203-229-2000. We are always happy to help keep your family healthy and safe. Child